Alcohol

Cheap Drinks Save Lives!

|

The Russian government recently decided to crack down on bootleg liquor, imposing new licensing requirements and requiring new excise stamps on all alcohol. It also failed to distribute the required stamps, causing a widespread shortage of legal booze. When the stamps finally arrived, easing the shortage, the new licensing requirements more than tripled the price of a half-liter of vodka. The result:

A perennial and pernicious Russian problem—death by vodka—has taken on alarming dimensions in recent weeks as dozens of people have died and thousands more have been hospitalized after drinking bootleg liquor laced with brake fluid, lighter fuel, disinfectants and other poisonous agents.

The requirements were intended to "improve consumer safety." Officials are calling for the logical response to a deadly government fuck up: state monopoly.

NEXT: Ole' Sullum Will Not Rest Until Every Single (Well, the Single) Libertarian Is Driven From Congress

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. They should just ban the sale of the stuff if they really want to keep people safe and not just make money from the stamps.

  2. I was in Russia a few weeks ago and it’s like a theme park for alcoholics. You can drink anywhere – the subway, parks, chairlifts, elevators, hospitals, the office… A friend who works there told me the government is serious about trying to cut down on the number of alcoholics and has unveiled an ad campaign. The slogan: “Switch to Beer.”

  3. State monopoly is NOT the guilty party. We also pay excise taxes on booze, yet the only time people died from booze in any appreciable numbers was during the Prohibition. How about making vodka cheaper by lowering the cost of those stamps? This way bootleggers (samogonshchiki) will be driven out of business by clean, safe vodka.

  4. Yuri, are you in Russia? Has it been pretty easy in the past to obtain imported booze?

    Jane – are you another incarnation of Dan T.?

  5. Of course this kind regulation is all stupid, but
    how desparate do you have to be to take the edge off? When your cosmo has the slight echoing of brake fluid, it might be time to question weather or not you should finish the bottle.

  6. IIRC, this is not the first time Russian has gotten in trouble with stupid alcohol policy. I remember hearing that back in Soviet days, they tried raising the price of vodka to discourage drinking. This just make people make their own moonshine, so they raised the price of sugar…eventually all they managed to do was make people drink cologne instead. You would think that governments would sometimes stop to think about the second-order effects of their policies, but then again, second-order effects seem to be mother’s milk to nanny-state types.

  7. I think this one qualifies for some kind of ‘shooting-oneself-in-the-foot’ award.

  8. YURI = How about making vodka cheaper by lowering the cost of those stamps? This way bootleggers (samogonshchiki) will be driven out of business by clean, safe vodka.

    Well, Yuri, how about making Vodka cheaper by making Government get completely out of regulating the booze business, and letting market competition drive prices down and quality up?

    The idea that – without government regulation – everyone would sell rank poison-vodka to people is ridiculous; you dont make money murdering your customer base en masse.

    If there were less regulation, there’d be more competition, more competition drives prices down, and people would compete to provide the best quality at the lowest price. You’d have a hard time selling ‘fake’ booze when the market provided so many equitable alternatives. Voila, problem (well, at least the supply problem) solved.

    The question of, ‘how should Russia deal with a massive, endemic alcoholism problem?’ is something that I dont believe will ever be regulated/governed away. Does that mean that government shouldnt try? In my view, No, they shouldnt – they usually, a la Welfare, only create disincentives for people to take responsibility for themseles.

    Hopefully a new generation will come along and decide it’s not necessarily in their self-interest to booze themselves to death by 59.

  9. . . . but how desparate do you have to be to take the edge off?

    Ever been to Russia?

  10. When Dan T shows up and reads Jane’s comment, he’s goint to be pissed.

  11. The idea that – without government regulation – everyone would sell rank poison-vodka to people is ridiculous; you dont make money murdering your customer base en masse.

    M, still a novice to this forum and its principles, recalls periodic press reports of bad heroin or meth reported to have killed (admittedly not all, but perhaps too many of) its consumers. M notices that, superficially at least, by contrast, gov-regulated production and sale of alcohol seems to ensure product safety. M suspects he is not the first to consider the problem of quality control and hopes someone here will point out the obvious non-governmental solution(s).

    None of what M has written in this post is facetiously, ironically, or sarcastically intended.

  12. “You can drink anywhere – the subway, parks, chairlifts, elevators […]”
    … which is exactly as it should be. Why shouldn’t you be allowed to drink on the subway or in a park? Hell I can’t even imagine not being allowed to take a sip o’ beer while walking the streets. Having said that – it figures I come from a semi-alcoholic country. šŸ˜‰

  13. bootleg liquor laced with brake fluid, lighter fuel, disinfectants and other poisonous agents

    ok, maybe i missed this class, but why are all these buzzkills in the vodka? bootleg or not, what function would brake fluid serve in the production and consumption of vodka?

  14. all I know is: having long sympathised with endlessly betrayed Rahshin pipples, were I there, Id drink even more than I do now.
    Scary thought……

  15. I thought that Russian brake fluid was different than Western varieties in that it contained a large alcohol component or something. In the film “The Beast”, about a Russian tank crew in Afghanistan during the ’80’s, one of the soldiers does just that: siphon off brake fluid fluid from the tank to drink. “Kaminski drank our brakes….”

    A fine film BTW, possibly the best one I’ve seen to really get the feel of what it’s like to be a tanker. Notwithstanding the comparisons about getting out of Afghanistan alive as a foreign military.

    “Tank Boy! I’m comin’ for you, Tank Boy….”

  16. M, still a novice to this forum and its principles, recalls periodic press reports of bad heroin or meth reported to have killed (admittedly not all, but perhaps too many of) its consumers.

    In any of the cases that you read about were these things being sold by anyone other than a criminal element in anything but an underground or black market within a regime of prohibition?

  17. Thank you, Isaac Barton, for the push to reverse the conventional perspective. I see the point that fugitivity can drive vendors into fraud and deprives consumers of recourse, rather than (only) the other way around. So let me ask, is it the case that concealed hazards in everything from spinach to switchblades to swampland are best handled by purchasers doing due diligence of vendors who are entirely unmolested by governmental regulation? Or are there cases in which the features of a risk warrant public suppression? I do realize this is a very basic question, but I am trying to give shape to the impressions I receive here.

  18. That should have been Isaac Bartram, I’m so sorry. I could blame the agent orange type, but I won’t.

  19. It would be a bad idea to put alcohol in brake fluid, unless it was some kind of high temp. alcohol.

    -Chris

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.